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This blog is a service of Alston & Bird's Climate Change and Carbon Management team and focuses on rapidly emerging issues associated with greenhouse gas emissions. Our lawyers are experienced with a wide range of domestic and international business, regulatory and litigation issues in this arena.

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Supreme Court To Consider EPA’s Regulation of Greenhouse Gases

February 21, 2014 3:27 PM | Posted by Geoff Rathgeber | Topic(s): Federal Policy/Programs, Litigation, GHG / Climate Change

On February 24, 2014, the Supreme Court will hear a challenge to EPA’s rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions form stationary sources under the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration program. This case comes to Supreme Court as a consolidation of six cases after the D.C. Circuit unanimously upheld portions of the EPA’s greenhouse gas program.

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President Orders Tighter Fuel Standards for Trucks

February 18, 2014 2:32 PM | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): Federal Policy/Programs, Mobile Sources, Carbon Markets, Clean Tech, GHG / Climate Change

President Obama has issued an order to the U.S. EPA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop tighter fuel economy standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks beyond model year 2018. The new standards must be finalized by March 2016, with the proposed standards developed by March 2015. Obama said the standards represent “another big step to grow our economy and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.” The White House plans to work with truck manufacturers and operators in developing the standards.

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Longtime Congresssman Henry Waxman to Retire

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) will retire after four decades of serving the country as a member of Congress. Waxman served as a leader for the Democratic party on many health and environmental issues over the four decades, including: universal health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid coverage, cost of generic drugs, tobacco regulation, air and water quality standards, pesticide regulation, and climate change efforts. His leadership efforts earned him the spot of Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from January 2009 – January 2011. If you asked Republicans, they would say Rep. Waxman was a very partisan member of Congress, while Democrats would say he helped lead legislative compromises to make key bills become laws. Waxman said, “At the end of this year, I would have been in Congress for 40 years. If there is a time for me to move on to another chapter in my life, I think this is the time to do it.”

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Governor Brown Releases Draft Safeguarding California Plan

December 13, 2013 11:13 AM | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): Legislative & Public Policy (State, Local, Federal, Int'l), GHG / Climate Change

California Governor Brown has released a draft Safeguarding California Plan which outlines actions the state needs to take to be ready for the impacts of climate change. The draft plan examines nine different areas that are impacted by climate change: agriculture; biodiversity and habitat; emergency management; energy; forestry; ocean and coastal ecosystems and resources; public health; transportation; and water. In developing the plan, seven strategies were identified to be put into action that cross into the nine areas identified above. The seven strategies are:

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White House Loses Another Environmental Adviser

December 5, 2013 10:56 AM | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): Federal Policy/Programs, Legislative & Public Policy (State, Local, Federal, Int'l), GHG / Climate Change

Nancy Sutley, the chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, will step down from her role in February. Sutley was a key contributor to the Obama Administration’s climate action plan released earlier this year. She also played a role in creating new fuel efficiency standards and new standards for carbon emissions from power plants. Sutley’s departure follows that of Heather Zichal, Obama’s top climate policy adviser, who recently left her position.

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EPA’s New Strategic Plan Includes Focus on Emission Standards for Heavy Duty Vehicles and Off-Road Sources

November 25, 2013 1:03 PM | Posted by Bruce Pasfield | Topic(s): Federal Policy/Programs, Mobile Sources, GHG / Climate Change

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft strategic plan entitled, “Draft FY 2014-2018 EPA Strategic Plan.” As part of EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment the draft strategic plan has five strategic goals: 
    • Address climate change and improve air quality, 
    • Protect America’s waters, 
    • Clean up Communities and advance sustainable development, 
    • Ensure safety of chemicals and prevent pollution, and 
    • Protect human health and the environment by enforcing laws and assuring compliance.
The draft plan also lists EPA’s core values as science, transparency and rule of law. The plan focuses on “developing and using creative, flexible, cost-effective, and sustainable actions that deliver significant benefits on the ground in protecting and improving human health and the environment.”

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Bi-partisan Group Seeks Probe Into RIN Market Manipulation

October 31, 2013 2:53 PM | Posted by Bruce Pasfield | Topic(s): Federal Policy/Programs, Renewable Energy, Clean Tech, GHG / Climate Change

A bi-partisan group of House members sent a letter to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) asking for an investigation into the alleged manipulation of the market for ethanol credits. The group of Representatives, all from the Midwest, said in their letter that price volatility in the market over the last year could be due to trading outside normal supply-and demand forces. Renewable identification numbers (RINS) are used to identify the credits and were created to be traded in the fuel supply chain and not in financial markets. The prices per credit fluctuated over the year from a few cents upwards to a high of $1.45 and back down to 30 cents. The oil industry and ethanol producers have different opinions on what has caused the price volatility. Sens. Grassley (R-IA) and Stabenow (D-MI) sent letters to the EPA and the CFTC respectively in September in regards to the manipulation of the RIN market. When the senators wrote their letters the RIN prices were around 70 cents. The lawmakers believe the CFTC and the EPA need to coordinate efforts to properly monitor the RIN market.

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States and Canadian Province Agree to Climate Pact

October 29, 2013 12:31 PM | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): State Policy/Programs, Legislative & Public Policy (State, Local, Federal, Int'l), GHG / Climate Change

The governors of California, Oregon and Washington have signed a climate pact with British Columbia in an effort to combat climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement calls for the four governments to work together in an effort to put a price on carbon dioxide pollution, requiring the use of lower-carbon gasoline, and setting more goals to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions across their region. The agreement will allow the governments to develop the same greenhouse gas emissions targets for 2050, and develop near-term targets that will help them reach the long-term goals. Part of the agreement calls for 10% of all new cars and trucks on the market to be electric vehicles by 2016. The governments hope that this blueprint, though it is nonbinding, will be a signal to Congress to move forward with climate legislation.

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CRS Releases Report on Carbon Capture and Storage

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report entitled “Carbon Capture: A Technology Assessment.” The 100 page report was completed by Pete Folger, a Specialist in Energy and Natural Resources Policy for CRS. The report focuses on the first component of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), the capture portion of the technology. The report “assesses prospects for improved, lower-cost technologies for each of the three current approaches to CO₂ capture: post-combustion capture; pre-combustion capture; and oxy-combustion capture.” The report indicates all three technologies have success with a capture rate above 90 percent, but the drawback remains the expensive price tag. The issue also remains that the technologies have yet to be demonstrated on a full-scale coal-fired or gas-fired power plant. Current R&D efforts are being focused on how to reduce the cost of the technology. Government and private-sector roadmaps predict that capture technologies will be ready for widespread commercial availability by 2020.

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Supreme Court to Hear Climate Change Case

October 15, 2013 11:22 AM | Posted by Elise N. Paeffgen | Topic(s): Federal Policy/Programs, Litigation, GHG / Climate Change

The U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will review portions of EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations addressing climate change. The court will hear a challenge to the D.C. Circuit ruling that upheld portions of EPA’s greenhouse gas program. The court accepted six petitions, linked with Coalition for Responsible Regulators v. EPA, which will be consolidated into one. The petitions aim to block EPA’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from stationary sources. By taking up the petitions, the justices will focus on one question: “Whether EPA permissibly determined that its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases.” The court is likely to hear arguments in January or February 2014.

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